2004’s flair and versatility can never be topped

By By Quinn Wilcox

By Quinn Wilcox

Let’s get real here. This has been a great season, even a special one. But to compare this squad to the undefeated 2004 squad? I don’t know about that.

These comparisons were bound to be made once Utah beat TCU last week. After I sat down this weekend and compared these two Utah teams, I realized two things.

One, the current Utah team is very good. Two, the 2004 Utah team was one for the ages.

With one of the most potent offenses in the entire country and a talented defense, the Urban Meyer-led Utes would probably beat this year’s team.

Everyone who follows football knows that the most important position on the team is the quarterback. Utah has veteran quarterback Brian Johnson leading the way this year. 2004 had Alex Smith. Now, I know the last time we saw Smith, he was being eaten alive by NFL defenses, but remember what he did in college. Smith threw for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also took care of the football, only throwing four picks on the year8212;two of which were against BYU in the final game of the year.

That’s something Johnson has struggled with. Johnson is regarded as one of the better quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference, while Smith was regarded as one of the better quarterbacks in the country. Remember, he was right up there with Matt Leinart, Adrian Peterson and high school buddy Reggie Bush on the Heisman stage.

Utah’s skill players this year are a great group. Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack form one of the best running back duos in the conference, and Utah’s receivers are a very athletic group. But the 2004 team will end up having better stats than these guys. Neither Asiata nor Mack are on pace to beat Marty Johnson’s total of 804 yards from that year. As for the receivers, I love Brent Casteel and Freddie Brown, but Paris Warren is on a different level. And don’t forget about Steve Savoy. He ended the 2004 year with 961 yards and 11 TDs, along with a first team all-MWC selection.

Again, advantage 2004.

This year’s defense is one of the best in the nation, and compares much more favorably to the 2004 squad. Still, that year’s defense was no slouch. Defensive linemen Sione Pouha and Jonathan Fanene were both drafted into the NFL. That defense also had Morgan Scalley, the defensive MWC Player of the Year. The 2004 Utes defense never got the credit it deserved. The offense from 2004 got all of the attention, but the defense had its fair share of great athletes as well.

Finally, just compare the results of both teams up to this point. Utah has had quite a few close games this year. Oregon State, New Mexico, Air Force, Michigan and TCU were all nail-biters. Give this team credit8212;it has performed well in the clutch. We don’t know how the 2004 team would have performed in the clutch because all of its games were blowouts.

The closest a team came to beating the Utes that year was Air Force, 49-35, and the Falcons scored a meaningless touchdown to end the game. The Utes never got a scare that year like they have been getting this year.

The 2004 team was just one of those teams where all the pieces fell into place. That squad has to go down as one of the greats. While this team is very talented, it just isn’t on the same level as the one from four years ago. But don’t let that fact take away from what has been a great season of Ute football.

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